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Let’s talk about gratuities in tourism
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‘Tip’ is a word we sometimes pronounce with a sort of shame, but it has a well-defined meaning and impact.
We spoke about this during a meeting organised by Fipe (the Italian Federation of Commercial Concerns) at Tuttofood in Milan to present a comprehensive study they conducted on this topic.
The survey compares the different ways of handling gratuities in various European countries, in the United States and in Japan, and shows that no two places are the same in the way tips are paid or regulated for tax purposes.
In United States restaurants, tips are a custom (i.e. almost compulsory) because they have a strong impact on the workers’ pay, which is otherwise quite low, and generally range between 12% and 15% of the bill amount or more; they are also registered on credit cards where, after the amount to be paid, there is a specific space where you can add how much you wish to leave for your waiter. Some companies – like Starbucks – were ruled against by the Federal Court for mismanaging the distribution of tip money.
In Japan, on the contrary, tips are almost regarded as an insult, and tipping is definitely to be advised against.
While differing from country to country, tipping is a well-established practice In Europe. Gratuities are subject to different regulatory interpretations depending on state laws, so that (at least in theory) tips are subject to taxation in some countries, not in others.
The history of tipping has been intertwined with the development of tourism in our country, and has produced generations of high-level professionals who substantially contributed to making Italy – at a certain time – the number one country in the world for tourist traffic.
Leaving aside the current show-business phenomenon of TV chefs, propensity towards hospitality occupations is dwindling, and the reasons for this are to be found in the amount of effort required (suffice it to think of shift work for 365 days a year) in return for a salary that is not in line with other industries. Indeed, remunerations in the hospitality business have never been especially high , but they used to be substantially complemented by gratuities – which, for a whole number of economic and cultural reasons, are now shrinking, and almost completely disappearing for certain jobs.
Employers used to be quite aware of their workers’ opportunity for an extra income, and this has always conditioned salary negotiations; nowadays, above all at a time of economic crisis that has a strong impact on the quantity and prices of products sold, it is hard for workers to recuperate ground by an increase in salary, hence the limited willingness and propensity to work in tourism.
We are not speaking of occasional occupations, but of people who are building their own careers, and should rightfully have a clear and rewarding career path ahead of them; on conclusion of a period when gratuities were generously distributed, it is essential that employers identify different motivations (not only economic) to involve co-workers to perform their assigned tasks with commitment and passion (these being indispensable characteristics).

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